John Pascoe Fawkner, Businessman & Melbourne Pioneer (1792-1869)

Carte De Visite - John Pascoe Fawkner, circa1867

Image: Carte De Visite - John Pascoe Fawkner, circa1867

Source: Museum Victoria

The story of John Pascoe Fawkner is part of the story of the founding of Melbourne and the establishment of Victoria as a separate state. Melbourne was lifted by its bootstraps by men like Fawkner and his contemporaries such as Westgarth and Batman.

John Pascoe Fawkner (1792-1869) was a pioneer, businessman and politician of Melbourne. In August 1835 he financed a party of settlers from Van Diemen's Land (now called Tasmania), to sail to the mainland in his ship, Enterprize. Fawkner's party sailed to Port Phillip Bay and up the Yarra River to found a settlement which became the city of Melbourne.

Previously in April 1835, John Batman, a successful farmer in Tasmania explored the area in what is now the northern suburbs of Melbourne. On 6 June Batman, as part of a Tasmanian business syndicate signed a 'treaty' with the local Aboriginal people, in which he purported to buy 2,400 km² of land around Melbourne and Geelong. Batman returned to Launceston and began plans to mount a large expedition to establish a settlement on the Yarra. But Fawkner beat him to it with his settler party on the Enterprize. When Batman and his party reached the Yarra on 2 September they were dismayed and angry to find Fawkner's people already in possession. The two groups decided that there was plenty of land for everybody and not dispute who was there first. Both Batman and Fawkner settled in the new town, which had several interim names before being officially named Melbourne in March 1837.

Born in London in 1792, as an 11 year old Fawkner accompanied his father as he was transported to Tasmania. After he was married in 1822, he and his wife Eliza established a bakery, timber business, bookshop, a newspaper (The Launceston Advertiser), nursery and orchard. Fawkner also obtained a licence to run the Cornwall Hotel. He opened Melbourne's first hotel on the corner of William Street and Flinders Lane. He ordered a printing press from Tasmania. While awaiting its arrival he published the Melbourne Advertiser in 1838. The Advertiser's first nine weekly editions were handwritten. The first printed edition appeared on 5 March 1838 after Fawkner purchased an old press in order to beat the competition in producing the settlement's first newspaper. It was closed down on 23 April 1838 for want of a newspaper license from Sydney, but on 6 February 1839 The Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser commenced publication after a license was obtained. It was first published daily on the15 May 1845. In 1851 Fawkner was elected to the first Legislative Council of the Port Phillip District, and in 1856 he was elected to the first Parliament of the self-governing colony of Victoria, as MLC for Central Province.

From September 1836 Melbourne was the administrative centre of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales, and Fawkner campaigned vigorously for its separation. In July 1851 the successful agitation of the Port Phillip settlers led to the establishment of Victoria as a separate colony.

Releated Stories
The Founding of Melbourne


 

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